The city of Orono is seeking proposals for “reimagining” its Navarre area as a central gathering spot.

Leaders are looking for proposals from firms for a planning study by Aug. 4, with the City Council expected to approve a proposal Aug. 14.

The city then would hold public meetings to get feedback from residents and stakeholders on what kind of development the community wants to see for Navarre.

Navarre is the closest thing Orono has to a downtown, said Community Development Director Jeremy Barnhart, and represents the city’s historic town center. It could be reimagined as a central gathering spot for community activities and festivals.

The city had done four previous studies over the last several decades, but nothing significant resulted from them. This time, Barnhart said, the city will make sure the process is community-driven and that the study is incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan.

Navarre “has the potential to be Orono’s center point,” he said. “I’m hopeful we can do a plan driven by the public.”

The area is losing working-class housing as teardowns result in larger homes, he added. Coming up with a strategy for the area would help guide future redevelopment, he said.


Golden Valley

City to remove 70 ash trees in August that are threatened by emerald ash borer

Crews will remove up to 70 ash trees in Golden Valley threatened by the emerald ash borer, the species of beetle that eats and kills ash trees.

Tree removal is expected to begin sometime in August and will occur along Winnetka Avenue from Hwy. 55 to 10th Avenue N., according to city officials.

While the ash borer has not yet been found in the city, park maintenance supervisor Al Lundstrom said it’s inevitable. About 23 percent of Golden Valley’s trees are ash trees.

In an effort to clear out all public ash trees, Golden Valley developed a plan in 2010 to remove up to 100 of them annually over two decades. Hennepin County is helping the city during the removal process.

City crews and volunteers will plant new trees on Oct. 21. People interested in volunteering may contact Hennepin County forester Jen Kullgren at 612-596-1175.

Miguel Otárola


Portillo’s to open second metro location

After some controversy, Portillo’s announced that it will open a 9,000-square-foot Prohibition-style restaurant this fall in the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes. It will be the restaurant’s second location in the metro area, following the opening of a Woodbury restaurant earlier this month.

The company made the announcement after the City Council approved Portillo’s plans. An earlier vote denied the Chicago-based hot dog restaurant’s proposal as council members had expressed concern about parking and traffic congestion.

But residents spoke out against that vote and started a petition, and the council changed its mind.

The restaurant will open at 2251 Elm Creek Blvd. N. It will feature drive-through lanes, outdoor seating and beer sales.


West metro

Cities recognized for racial equity efforts

St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Bloomington were three of several cities recently recognized by the League of Minnesota Cities for their commitment to racial equity. The cities were given the President’s Award during the League’s annual conference June 15 in Rochester.

The award highlights work with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity as well as efforts to make policies and procedures more equitable.

Other cities to receive the award included Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Duluth, Mankato and Maplewood.

Outgoing League President Rhonda Pownell, the mayor of Northfield, said during the meeting that racial equity was a major theme of her time in office.

Miguel Otárola


Golf tourney raises $75K for St. David’s

A fundraiser this month for Minnetonka-based St. David’s Center, which is expanding next spring into downtown Minneapolis, raised more than $75,000.

The charity golf tournament, hosted by NFL Hall of Famer and former Viking John Randle and his wife Candace, took place at Hazeltine National Golf Club. The annual event, Tee Up for Tomorrow, has raised nearly $450,000 since it began in 2012.

St. David’s Center, a nonprofit that serves nearly 2,600 children and their families in community and center-based programs, will open a $4.5 million center at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis next year to provide mental health services for about 200 children.



Thai eatery opens at historic Savage Depot

A Thai restaurant has become the newest business to occupy the historic Savage Depot.

The City Council approved the venture — called Wow! Thai Food — in May and granted a three-year lease extension to operators Helen and Carl Andersen.

The city-owned Depot has been a challenging space for businesses, with limited visibility from nearby Hwy. 13. Mayor Janet Williams said she hopes the new operators will find their own niche to help drive traffic downtown.

The Depot, built in 1880, served as a railroad station until 1970. It was later moved to a site in Shakopee before returning to Savage in 2006.

Liz Sawyer